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Gov’t moving ahead with sale of closed sugar estate lands – Harmon

Aerial view of the Skeldon Sugar Factory.

Government was preparing to sell off huge swathes of land owned by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) as part of moves to sell off the several loss-making estates, even as the administration prepared to revive interest in the ‘for-sale’ assets by local and foreign investors, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon said Friday.

“I can say to you that in a short time that activity for the sale of lands that will not remain a part of the new Guysuco, that that activity, will commence very shortly,” Harmon told a post-Cabinet news conference.

A land-sales committee has already been established by President David Granger because the disposal of Guysuco’s lands would be the single biggest sale of such lands since Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966.

Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, Trevor Benn told Demerara Waves Online News that “I’m not aware of any process if there is any process” for Guysuco to dispose of State lands that have been leased to the wholly state-owned Guysuco. He said more than 50 percent of Guysuco’s lands are leased.

Benn said he was unaware that Guysuco or any other entity has invoked provisions of the State Lands Act to sell the leased lands.

The Ministry of the Presidency’s Director General said government was actively taking steps to reengage companies that said they want to buy the closed sugar estates — Rose Hall-Canje, Skeldon, and East Demerara (Enmore to Ogle). He conceded that after the valuation of the assets by the United Kingdom-headquartered company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, investor interest has faded.

Harmon said government has now tasked itself to revive interest in the estates by prospective buyers. “You had interests by several companies and because it (the valuation of assets) took a little while, some of those interests would have waned and so we now have to reestablish contact with some of the parties who had expressed an interest in the first place. So that is going on,” he said.

Ten expressions of interest had been dispatched to the Special Purpose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), government’s holding company for State assets, but only five companies had submitted bids and three evaluated because two did not fulfill all the requirements.

Bidding back then were D. Rampersaud & Company Limited for the Skeldon Estate; Guygulf International Trading Development Industrial and Financial LLC (parent company of Nand Persaud & Co. Ltd) for the Skeldon, Rose Hall and Albion estates; Liberty Investments Inc. for Enmore Estate; Industrial Equipment Sales and Service Incorporation (IESS) and Kadem Sugars Inc. for the Rose Hall Estate.

Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), a private rum manufacturer, last November opted out of the process to acquire the Enmore Estate to produce mainly molasses, saying that in its due diligence exercise, “DDL was unable to find a model for the Enmore Estate that would properly fit within its current investment and development strategy.”